WCC seeks community backing on bond referendum




WEST JEFFERSON-Along with casting ballots for their selected candidates during the March 5th primary, North Carolina voters will also decide if a $2 billion bond measure that is aimed at improving the state’s aging infrastructure is in line with the the legislature’s goal of fiscal responsibility.

The Connect NC bond measure is the first of its kind in 15 years and was created with the purpose of connecting the state to the 21st century through statewide investments in education, parks, safety, recreation and water and sewere infrastructure, according to the a state website endorsing the bond’s passage.

Locally, advocates of the bond boasted it will create additional funding avenues for several local projects including improvements to Appalachian State University College of Nursing, Grandfather Mountain State Park and up to $5.2 million to Wilkes Community College. WCC officials have already expressed interest in committing up to $3 million of those funds to a possible expansion of the Ashe Campus in the near future.

“I am particularly excited about the $350 million in funds to support our state’s 58 community colleges and more specifically, the $5.24 million we will get at WCC,” Ashe Campus Vice President Chris Robinson said in a letter to the Post.

“Our top priority for the bond funds is to significantly expand the Ashe Campus in partnership with Ashe County. This will provide much-needed programming space and additional services for our 500 degree seeking students and the nearly 2,500 continuing education students we serve through the Ashe Campus on an annual basis.”

Robinson said approval of the Connect NC Bond will help ensure the facilities necessary for the college to meet the campus current and future needs.

The economic incentives by the bond could also help additional industry expansion.

“As has been shown by the by the over $1 million training program WCC has offered as part of the recent expansion of GE Aviation, WCC and our 57 sister institutions are essential components of the future economic growth of our county and our state,” said Robinson. “We are a critical partner to the business and industry community, whether they are an industry expanding by 100 jobs or a new small business that is looking to locate in downtown West Jefferson.”

Robinson further defended the bond by citing its more immediate impact on local students.

“Perhaps most importantly, we provide high quality educational opportunities to the people of Ashe County at a very affordable cost,” he said. “We continue to expand our partnership with

Ashe County High School to provide juniors and seniors with opportunities to earn college credit tuition free.”

Champions of the bond say it will allow the state to pay for 50-year assets with 20-year financing. They say that no tax increases are necessary to finance the bond either given the state’s revenue growth and debt service capacity.

“We will continue to balance the budget and uphold our position as one of only 10 states to have earned the coveted Triple A bond rating from all three major rating agencies,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a note on the bond’s website.

Not everyone, however, is sold on the measure.

Lew Hendricks (R) questions why fellow Republicans would want to take on more debt.

“Why would republicans want to take on debt? It’s kind of one of our party’s principle’s to not do deficit spending,” Hendricks stated on his Facebook page.

Hendricks said he is the only candidate for the N.C. House of Representatives against the measure.

“I would rather prioritize upgrading some of our public schools before building new buildings,” said Hendricks.

Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.

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